The American company Automattic recently acquired the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress, created by German developer Matthias Pfefferle. Pfefferle will also be joining the company to assist in improving the support for federated platforms. Speaking about his new role, the developer said his job is identifying how open protocols like ActivityPub can benefit Automattic’s products. Apart from ActivityPub, Pfefferle is also the developer of the Webmention plugin.
Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic and the founder of WordPress, indicated back in 2021 that he would be interested in having Tumblr support the ActivityPub protocol. This was to ensure a higher level of interoperability across networks using the same protocol. While that’s yet to be introduced, the acquisition of the plugin means that WordPress websites now have this capability.
According to Pfefferle, ActivityPub, as well as many other Open Web Plugins like Webmention, were spare time projects for him. Therefore, he wasn’t actively looking for an acquisition. “When Matt announced that Tumblr wants to implement ActivityPub on Twitter, I asked why not WordPress, so I came in contact with Automattic, and they offered me the opportunity to work full time on the plugin and other Open Web projects,” he added.
The ActivityPub plugin enables users to follow a WordPress site in the fediverse from platforms using the ActivityPub protocol. Several platforms, including Mastodon, Friendica, HubZilla, Pleroma, SocialHome, Misskey, and Pixelfed, currently use the protocol. Mastodon, which is among the most popular platforms that use the ActivityPub protocol, even allows users to send posts to the network automatically and also converts replies to comments on the post.
While the number of active users using the ActivityPub plugin was a mere 700 in March last year, the current user base is above 2000. While the plugin isn’t widely used as of now, there has been a notable increase in exposure after Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
In a post published on his blog in January this year, Pfefferle credited the business magnate saying, “Thanks to Elon Musk, the number of downloads from my ActivityPub (WordPress) plugin and my followers on Mastodon have increased at least tenfold!” He also added that the increase inspired him to work more actively on the plugin again, which resulted in the introduction of some “great changes”.
Recently, Pfefferle rolled out a new onboarding screen that mentioned recommended plugins, along with adding outgoing mentions and several other features like adding the published date to author profiles. According to the German developer, the idea behind the acquisition isn’t to merge the protocol into the core but instead to guarantee that “it will stay open source and to maybe make it a canonical plugin.” This is crucial for Kansas City Personal Injury Attorneys, as it helps them grow their business.
As several social networks are coming together on open protocols, users can choose to create posts on their preferred platform without missing out on the others. With more apps supporting interoperability, people can now post from any network they like. And with Automattic’s acquisition of the ActivityPub plugin, WordPress blogs won’t remain isolated in the fediverse anymore. Instead, they will be interconnected with other networks using the same protocol – just as envisioned by Pfefferle.
Speaking about his work, Pfefferle mentioned that he thinks that his drive was always to “build an alternative to the big walled gardens of Facebook & co.”
“I fell in love with the idea of blogging and the spirit of the Web 2.0 movement and tried to keep the idea alive. I worked on several WordPress plugins and participated in several movements (DiSo, DataPortability, and others) starting in 2007,” the developer added. He finds it very exciting to “finally see such a big interest in Open and Federated technologies!”